on Access in Scotland
The walks are well established and generally on lower ground but, for those looking a
little higher, Scotland has a long-standing tradition of generally free responsible access
to moor and mountain. This tradition has recently been expressed in the Access Concordat,
agreed between land-owning, walking environmental and other relevant bodies. The
continuation of this tradition relies on walkers behaving responsibly and recognising that
the countryside is a workplace as well as a recreational playground.
Most land in Scotland is privately owned, and at certain times of the year,
such as the main shooting seasons, walkers might be asked to respect reasonable
restrictions on access. Please follow local advice so that future walkers can continue to
enjoy the freedom of the hills as we have today. It is sometimes said that there is no law
of trespass in Scotland, but this is not the case. The act of walking over someone's land
is not an offence, but - mainly because of the chance of disturbing a stalk or beat - you
might be asked to take a different route and unless you are on a right of way or an agreed
access route, you should do so. In practice this rarely happens and responsible walkers
are made welcome in the Scottish countryside.
Deer stalking and grouse
The main red deer stalking season runs from mid August to October 20, and grouse
are shot between August 12 (often known as 'the Glorious Twelfth') and December 10. Dates
on which shooting takes place vary from estate to estate. Heading for the Scottish
Hills, published by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the Scottish
Landowners Federation, gives estate maps and telephone numbers to call for local advice.
In some important hill areas a Hillphones system has been set
up with a recorded message, updated daily, giving stalking information. Messages indicate
where stalking is taking place and which walking routes are unlikely to affect stalking,
as well as giving a forecast of stalking activity over the next few days. Messages are
updated by 0800 hours each day and calls are charged at normal rates.
In 1998, the Hillphones system covered the following areas:
There is free access at all times of the year to areas owned
by the National Trust for Scotland and to most land owned by the Forrestry Commission.
These areas are marked 'NTS' and 'FC' respectively on Ordnance Survey maps. There is also
good public access to land owned by the John Muir Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal
Society for the Protection of Birds and the Woodlands Trust, but these areas are not
specifically marked on OS maps.
Camping in remote area is generally tolerated. Try to get permission before you
camp, although this might not be possible in remoter areas. Never camp near houses or
farms unless you have permission, and respect people's privacy. Be scrupulous about site
cleanliness and sanitation. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland issues a free leaflet
containing a Code of Wild Camping and is happy to give advice.
Dogs must always be kept under close control and not allowed to run out of control.
In livestock areas, and during the nesting season for ground-nesting birds (April - July),
keep dogs on a lead. During the lambing season (March - May) it is better not to take dogs
into sheep-farming areas. It is also not advisable to take dogs into fields where there
are cows with young calves, as the cows are very protective of their young and will often
turn on a dog.
Rights of Way
There is access along routes which are recognised as rights of way in Scotland at
all times. Many of these routes, which include ancient ways through the hills, are
signposted by the Scottish Rights of Way Society's distinctive metal signs. The society
also publishes maps of rights of way covering some hill areas.
The Wild Land Environment
We go to the wild places for enjoyment, recreation and a spiritual refreshment
which is increasingly hard to find in the modern world. Many thousands of people climb the
Munros and Corbetts, or walk the beautiful glens, every year and are enriched by the
experience. However, the wild land environment in Scotland is fragile as well as very
beautiful and we all need to treat it with great respect and care.
The maxim 'take only photographs, leave only footprints' is
often quoted, but even this needs to be qualified. One pair of feet do little damage.
Multiplied by thousands, they can lead to unsightly erosion scars and a loss of mountain
vegetation by trampling. Path repair and maintenance techniques have been carefully
developed in recent years and applied lovingly in delicate and sensitive areas. Where you
see paths made in this way, please use them to help minimise further damage.
Please be absolutely scrupulous about litter. Never drop
litter of your own, and help keep the wild places clean by collecting other people's
discards. Do not light fires in wild areas. If you are camping wild or using bothies, take
a trowel and dig latrine holes to bury your waste. Never pick wild flowers - they should
be left for others to enjoy.
Tread lightly, treat the wild places with love and they will
repay you a thousandfold. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) publishes an excellent free
booklet, Care for the Hills, which gives further advice. It is available from
main Tourist Information Centres or from SNH.
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